Career coaching

Confident career transition PART 1: “Into the unknown”

Should I stay, or go?

It’s a question we all ponder at some point in our careers.

Then reality sets in:

What if the place I go to is worse?

What about the risk to my family – how can I justify a big change?

How can I leave where I am with my head held high?

How can I know if staying or going is the best option for me?

I put off the decision to leave academia for many years. I made excuses – my situation isn’t “that bad”, I’m providing for my family, I have a pension, a parking permit – gym membership!

I pushed my feelings down and became more and more unhappy.

As a coach, I offer you the benefit of my experience in making a big leap, and my experience of coaching people like you through change.

But I offer something else – a promise that your career transition can be happy.


In this first post in a series, let’s look at a common concern:

“What if the place I go to is worse?”

Ok, so here’s a brighter question:

How do I find the right place for me?

What are the most important differences you want to find in your new “place”?

More respect? Balance? Money? Something else?

Even if you don’t know if your ideal position exists, take the time to describe it – write it out. There is power in getting it down on paper – because it’s not just a description of a future job, it’s a description of a future you.

If you can be honest in making this list – really honest – then you can use it to guide your search.

This may seem obvious. But often our happiness (or unhappiness) is a result of how well our values are met by our situation. Our values change. So too does our happiness. Your list helps you work out what place is right for you now.

This is a personal process, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

Get a “team” together to help – your partner, family, friends… your coach!

Next, the biggie – facing the unknown.


Explorers used to write “here be dragons” on unexplored areas of maps. It was a cunning way to keep competing nations from exploring beautiful new lands.

Employers sometimes use “Here be dragons” to keep hold of their staff.

If you’re serious about leaving – FOCUS ON THE CHANGE YOU WANT

Don’t let anyone tell you the outside world is too full of risks (or full of dragons) –

Staying might be a bigger risk to you.

Find people at work with nothing to gain if you stay, or lose if you leave. Ask their opinions.

If you want a change – BE COMMITTED

Don’t be distracted by piecemeal offers like a pay bump, or increased responsibility.

Unless these satisfy your values, their novelty will wear off.

Listen to people with your interests at heart – TRUST YOURSELF

And if a leap into the unknown still sounds scary, remember –

The unknown is not full of dragons

It’s full of people like you. Often happy people.

They’re out there now, in other roles, in other organisations, setting up businesses, turning hobbies into livelihoods, or just working hard in similar jobs, energised by a fresh environment and new people.

The unknown is home to a lot of “What if”s, but that’s OK.

“What if”s work both ways.

What if your new place is better in ways you haven’t even thought of? What if you find everything on your list and more? What if fear of the unknown is the only thing between you and a choice that will make you happy?


Are you at a career crossroads? Do you want to explore your options and your values ahead of a change? I can help. Get in touch for some confident career coaching.

Dr John Ankers offers down-to-earth coaching for life, business and academia. He is based in Liverpool, UK.

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Posted in career coaching, career transition, Life coaching.